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How important is location in the digital age?

Many argue that where you locate a technology business has become largely redundant.

However, while it is undeniable that for many this may be the case, our own experience has shown that location is still an extremely important consideration that can ultimately mean the difference between thriving – or failing.

We started DevOpsGuys five years ago in the south east of England with the aim of helping businesses innovate and respond quickly to market changes, while helping them integrate software more efficiently. We believe that DevOps should be seen as a platform that underpins successful and flexible businesses, and our client base has continued to grow recently.

We reached a point where our staff numbers were growing and we needed a larger office space. While we have a distributed workforce across a number of locations, I’m a strong believer in having a permanent base, as I think it helps engender a strong company culture. Our natural inclination had been to remain in London, but the more research we did the more attractive it became to explore some of the opportunities that presented themselves elsewhere.

In the end we chose Cardiff as the location for our business based on the following key criteria which we think will resonate with other technology companies.

Access to talent

Recruitment is much harder than people realise and access to the right talent is key in allowing you to grow and compete. Like most startups, we’ve had our own challenges with this but having access to the 3,500 ICT graduates that come out of Wales annually has made a huge difference to our prospects.

Welsh universities have gained a reputation for the quality of their research and we’ve been fortunate to have been able to tap into this knowledge base and build close working relationships with universities such as Cardiff and the University of South Wales. Upcoming developments promise to boost our talent pipeline further still, such as the launch of the National Software Academy at Cardiff University (a UK first), which we genuinely think will be a game changer within the industry.

Support and wider business community

A common problem faced by founders of startups is the need to have to do everything yourself. From accounting through to marketing, you almost have to become an expert overnight in a host of different fields, which can be both draining and an ineffectual use of your resources. Where you locate your business determines what support networks are available to you and whether you’re able to use them to your advantage.

We have been fortunate because ICT is high on the Welsh Government agenda, and we’ve been able to take advantage of its extended support networks. While we’ve received government funding we’ve found the financial aspect is not always the most important (although obviously it helps!). As part of the Accelerated Growth Programme we’ve been able to benefit from so much more, such as advice on marketing, professional advisory services and coaching and consulting from other like-minded people who have been on a similar growth journey to ourselves. In many respects, this support has been just as invaluable as any funding we’ve received.

Choosing a location where you can be part of a dynamic business community and a vibrant cultural scene is essential. A study by the Startup Genome Project shows that there’s a direct correlation between a city’s cultural scene and its corresponding business environment, and for us, it feels like a very exciting time to be based in Cardiff. We’ve seen a big growth in financial and insurance companies – as well as ICT – since we relocated here and this has provided us with plenty of opportunities to meet great people, share our experiences and get advice.

Costs and quality of life

Another key consideration when deciding on our location was the cost and quality of life. Employee wellbeing is something that we take seriously at DevOpsGuys and when we relocated to Wales, the staff that came with us were able to get on the property ladder due to the competitive housing costs in Cardiff. Also, with our office rent being relatively cheaper than in the South East, we were able to offer employees more competitive salaries, meaning their disposal incomes were higher than before. We’re firmly believe that a happy workforce plays an integral part in creating a successful company, therefore choosing a location that is a great place to live and work was one that fitted in with our company ethos.

These are just some of the key factors that influenced our decision to move to Wales. Other benefits we now enjoy include the IT infrastructure and transport links. Being able to jump on a train and be in the heart of London in just over a few hours is a real bonus when you have clients to visit.

So you see, despite what they say, location really does matter.

James Smith is CEO of DevOpsGuys

Image source: Shutterstock/Oleksiy Mark